Mascara is a common type of eye makeup used to darken the eyelashes. Some wearers may use mascara to open and define the eye, or to lengthen or thicken the lashes. Mascara ingredients often include water, oils and waxes, and pigments such as iron oxide for color. Vitamins, such as pro-vitamin B5 for conditioning, as well as various other chemicals may be added. A growing spotlight on the natural market has many manufacturers of mascara looking for alternative ingredients.
Several kinds of oil can be used as a mascara ingredient, including mineral, sesame, and eucalyptus oil. Additional oils sometimes used include castor oil, linseed oil, and lanolin. Because eyelashes may regularly come into contact with moisture, a mascara manufacturer often relies on heavy base ingredients such as paraffin, carnauba wax, palm wax, or beeswax to keep the color ingredients stuck to the lashes. The wax also helps keep the lashes separated, lengthened, and thickened.
Some ingredients can be allergenic, or even considered carcinogenic or toxic. Some potentially concerning ingredients include ethyl acrylate, lacquer, and polypropylene. Even lanolin and paraffin can cause allergic reactions in some people.
Mascara is commonly made one of two ways: with or without water. In one manufacturing process, called anhydrous, no water is used and the ingredients are heated together. They’re usually then agitated in a vat by a propeller until they form the right semi-solid consistency. Once cooled, the mascara may be ready to be bottled and inspected for impurities and chemical composition.
In another form of mascara manufacturing, thickeners are normally mixed with water to form a lotion base that’s emulsified with other mascara ingredients. Similar to shaking a bottle of oil and vinegar, an emulsion is a suspension of one droplet inside another that wouldn’t normally mix together. Other ingredients, such as waxes, are heated separately from the lotion then brought together later in the process. Pigments are usually added when the ingredients are placed with the lotion base in a machine called a homogenizer. This high-speed mixer breaks the ingredients into small droplets that will not mix completely together, but the waxes and oils remain suspended inside the lotion for the life of the mascara and help to bind the ingredients.